Friday 25 August 2017

#RWNZ17: Kristen Lamb and Rise of the Machines

By Iola Goulton

As I mentioned in my Tuesday post, I’ve just returned from the 2017 Romance Writers of New Zealand Conference. Our Friday keynote speaker was Kristen Lamb, social media jedi, founder of #MyWANA, and bestselling author of Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World.

Kristen is a dynamo from Texas. Being the Friday keynote speaker meant leading four consecutive sessions, broken only by meal breaks. That’s almost seven hours of teaching—and she kept us on the edge of our seats for that whole time. If that wasn’t enough of an achievement, she spoke without a PowerPoint presentation, and without notes. For seven hours.

Yes, Kristen Lamb knows her stuff.

Her first point was that we need to understand the human brain in order to work smarter, not harder. This takes us back to history and biology. Members of cultures with a strong oral culture (such as Australian Aborigines) have a brains with large memory centres. They also have long concentration spans.

Over time, the rise of the written word and technology means our memory centres and concentrations spans are smaller than ever. This rings true to me: if I want to remember something, I have to write it down. It's the rise of the machines ...

This leads to the theory of somatic markers. 

As Kristen explained it, a somatic marker is a neurological shortcut that affects our memory and our behaviour. If we see something positive, we form a positive association with that sight, sound, or smell. If we see something negative, we form a negative association.

(This has relevance to our actions as Christians. I suspect many people have negative somatic markers associated with Christians and Christianity, which is why they can be hard to convert.)

These somatic markers affect the way we need to act on social media.

Every interaction on social media creates a somatic marker that helps form an impression—helps form our online brand. We need that marker to be positive or neutral, not negative. If we form enough negative markers, we’ll learn to “unsee” that thing—our brain will blot it out as spam. This is why advertising doesn’t work—the people who aren’t interested in our products literally won’t see our advertisement.

People do business with people they know, like, and trust, so we want to create a positive emotional attachment with our prospective customers. When it comes to purchasing, we are more likely to purchase from someone we already have a positive emotional attachment with:
In a world of infinite choices, we buy what we know.
I see this at the supermarket. I know where the products I know, like, and trust are on the shelves, and I don’t even look at the other shelves. I barely look at the products surrounding whatever I want to buy.

Purchasing Behaviour

Kristen then talked about purchasing behaviour, describing low-consideration purchases, and high-consideration purchases. A low-consideration purchase is a low-cost item we purchase with little research or thought (i.e. most of what I buy at the supermarket). For the 5%–8% of the population who are booklovers (*raises hands*), a $2.99 ebook will be a low-consideration purchase.

A high-consideration purchase is one which requires more research or thought. This includes high-ticket items like a cars, computers, or iPhone. But here’s the thing:

A non-reader—one of that 92%—will consider a book a high-consideration purchase. Even a $2.99 ebook. Because they aren’t just thinking about the financial cost, but the fact it will take them ten hours or more to read that book (I read a lot faster, which could be another reason books are a low-consideration purchase).

Someone who is convinced they hate reading isn’t going to pay money to participate in an activity they think they’re not going to like. 

But if they do read and like your book, Kristen says they are more likely to review the book, and convince other people to buy and read the book.

So that’s the objective of social media: to form emotional relationships with potential purchasers. And she recommends blogging as the best way to form these relationships, to find our tribe. Kristen says:
We bond over the things we have in common.
She therefore recommends writing what she calls high concept blog posts. A high concept post is:

  • Emotional: it engages the hearts and minds of readers
  • Universal: it touches on something we can all relate to
  • Give/Take Away: it either gives the reader something (e.g. information) or offers a useful takeaway.

These high concept blog posts are the posts which are liked and shared … the post which go viral.

Kristen also recommends we always finish our posts with a call to action: ask readers what they thought, or offer them an incentive to comment (or both!). This encourages interaction, which builds relationship.

What do you think? Which authors do you think do a great job of building online relationships?

About Iola Goulton

I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction. Visit my website at to download a comprehensive list of publishers of Christian fiction. 

I also write contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist—find out more at

You can also find me on:
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  1. Wow ... thanks, Iola. There's a lot in this post. I really appreciate the explanation of "somatic markers" and yes, how it must effect people turning to the Lord.

    There are some excellent examples in the writing community who've built tremendous online connections who many of us know: Joanna Penn, Jeff Goins, Mike Hyatt ... interesting all 3 have done well with online + had that community buy books. Interestingly, both Jeff and Mike have created subscription-based "tribes", Jeff's Tribe Writers and Mike's Platform University.

  2. Iola, thanks for your informative post from Kristen's workshop. The consumer behaviour (high/low consideration purchases) is fascinating. The somatic markers is interesting and over the last 12-18 months we've really seen this in action with a lot of negativity flying around on social media. I'd love to see more high concept blog posts here on ACW, now we know the secrets to how to write them. :)


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